Sojourners Magazine has a piece up today about the shifting attitudes toward homosexuality among many young evangelicals.  I sound the conservative note in the piece, though it comes out a bit warbled:

Still, it seems that for the majority of millennial evangelical Christians, loving one’s gay neighbor doesn’t necessarily mean an immediate endorsement of marriage equality or explicit support for LGBT rights. Matthew Lee Anderson, 30, is a Christian writer in St. Louis, Missouri, who identifies as a millennial evangelical with a more broadly conservative view on public marriage. Anderson believes that evangelicals in support of same-sex civil marriage are naive about the negative ramifications of trying to separate the religious view of marriage from the governmental view of marriage, although many evangelicals and others are convinced that this is the best way forward on the issue.

A variant of the rainbow flag, symbolizing the...

A variant of the rainbow flag, symbolizing the gay rights movement in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I’ve faced opposition from younger evangelicals who really want to view this distinction between the religious conception and the governmental conception of marriage as a solution to the culture wars, but I’m skeptical,” Anderson says. “I think if you look at what’s going on with the Catholic Charities shutting down [their adoption services in several cities] because of anti-discrimination laws, that strikes me as a very tangible point of genuine conflict between the religious and governmental conception of marriage.”

Anderson does believe, however, that the conversation between conservative evangelicals and the LGBT community is shifting toward a more civil dialogue of mutual friendship and open communication. While he is careful to emphasize that a “let’s get along” approach could lead young evangelicals toward what he considers a too-loose policy position on same-sex marriage, Anderson appreciates the new generation’s emphasis on friendship as a civic virtue. “We’re willing to talk to each other, and we can create space for a less hysterical understanding of homosexuality in the public square,” Anderson says. “That’s not a policy solution, but I would say most younger evangelicals want to root their public engagement on this question with that relational approach.”

In addition to the above, I’d also note that I think that as a natural institution marriage can be defended in public on non-theological grounds.  We’ve made a go of that discussion in the past here at Mere-O, and we doubtlessly will again.

My point, which I garbled badly in the interview, is simply that the optimism about “getting the state out of the marriage business” as a solution to all this seems to me unfounded and potentially naive about the negative ramifications for the many services that religious bodies provide and the many freedoms that they enjoy.

Update:  As if on cue, a friend sends along this link about a legal academic who is arguing that tax exempt status should be removed from those religious institutions that discriminate on the basis of sex.  Which is simply to say, this question has all sorts of ramifications for churches and ministries that Christians should think very carefully about before jumping on board the gay marriage ship.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. That is an excellent point in the last two paragraphs. One of the ironies here is that Dr. Corbin’s proposal regarding the tax exemption would, at best, provide disincentive to give to the church and, worse, eat into the margins of the many enterprises that churches do in service to others, including those presumably supported by individuals who would accede to this Faustian bargain.


  2. […] same-sex marriage, I’d just like to point to others who have spoken cogently and respectfully on this […]


  3. I wonder why you believe that “talking to one another” is any kind of a contribution, when the discussion from your end is disingenuous. I don’t believe for one minute that you are confused about Catholic Charities. Five minutes on google would inform you that CC is not being forced to withdraw from any activity. It is absolutely free to do its charitable work and to do adoption placements as it pleases. It is perfectly free to tell gay people, in the finest Christian tradition, CC doesn’t serve their kind.

    It is only when it seeks to get public tax dollars and perform as a government contractor that it’s conduct is proscribed. It was my understanding that charity meant to give of what is yours, not to get and spend vast sums of taxpayer money pursuant to a government contract.

    In any event, a contractor voluntarily enters into a contract for benefits and in exchange has to provide services as spelled out in the contract. If you don’t like the contract, don’t sign it. Now, maybe you disagree with this and believe that CC should be able to sign contracts, get public money and then do as it pleases. Fine. You are free to make that case. But that is not an issue specific to gay people or gay marriage. It would apply to a range of activities, none of which ever seem to merit the disdainful carping that is triggered in your mind by any mention of gay people.

    That is “what’s going on with Catholic Charities.” That you mention none of this in your interview and attempt to imply that something entirely different is “going on” only marks you as a dishonest interlocutor. No discussion is better than a dishonest one.


    1. Thanks, Samuel, for the comment. I’d point out that I was speaking extemporaneously and we talked about a lot of things and covered a lot of terrain. Describing me as disingenuous based on that bit is…definitely a strong reading.

      At any rate, there is disagreement (clearly) in the legal community over whether the government’s proscribed conduct for explicitly religious social service organizations should include those dimensions that are covered by religious beliefs. Government neutrality on such things is…probably nonexistant (see The Paralyzing Paradox of Religious Neutrality, Stephen Smith).

      And don’t forget, too, that those gay couples could go to a number of other social services agencies that provide adoptions to gay couples. Why apply to the catholics?

      At any rate, claiming that someone is disingenuous straight away is a heck of a way to introduce yourself. I hope you stick around, though. Spirited opposition is much appreciated, or it is if it’s thoughtful and charitable, anyway.




  4. […] same-sex marriage, I’d just like to point to others who have spoken cogently and respectfully on this […]


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